Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Consolation of Gaming

I realized today that my life has a large quantity of "suck" in it right now.

I've been trying to rehab my shoulder for about a month now, and it involves a long series of strengthening exercises and stretches that take nearly 45 minutes to complete. I don't do those stretches, though, until I've raised my core temperature (which makes a surprising difference in how effective the stretches are) by riding on an exercise bike for about half an hour.

Compared to the very free feeling that swimming gives me, this workout is nothing short of miserable.

On a larger scale, the stock market seems to throw up on itself on a daily basis now, and I believe we're in what will prove to be the deepest recession of my lifetime.

I'm also following the presidential election this year to a degree that can only be described as unhealthy. I'm checking for new polls at least twice a day, often more than that, and it's very difficult because I actually deeply care about this election.

Combine all that, and I'm living on the Anxiety Express right now.

Eli 7.2 and Gloria provide a great deal of solace, in a nuclear way, but the overwhelming nature of current events are in the extended world, not the nuclear world.

I was playing De Blob yesterday, and as I grew progressively more relaxed, I was reminded how often in my life I've sought refuge in games. There have been many times in my life when I felt overwhelmed by larger events around me, and gaming has always been my way to retreat and regroup.

People who don't play games generally find it impossible to understand this--that gaming can be a healthy emotional outlet. Yes, it can be an escape at times, but there may be times in your life that are worth escaping, at least temporarily, and unlike many other popular retreats, gaming doesn't dull your brain--if anything, it sharpens it.

That's a good match for my personality, because when I'm down, I don't want to feel nothing--I want to feel something positive. Gaming almost always gives me positive emotions, not negative ones, and that's what I need.

This is where I always insert the story about my old girlfriend. I had a girlfriend once who snuck her stuff into my apartment one piece at a time. It's like she was trying to ship a jeep out of Korea, but in reverse.

Suddenly, she was living there, and to this day I have no idea how it actually happened. I just looked up one day and realized that she never seemed to be gone. I was about 30 at the time, and I was entirely unprepared to deal with a stealth move-in. It was like the U.N. passed a resolution redrawing my borders, and not being in the Security Council, I didn't have a veto.

This was enormously depressing, in retrospect, and it went on for a few months. What did I do to stay sane? I woke up in the middle of the night and played game after game of Earl Weaver Baseball on my Amiga 500 while she snored on a futon a few feet away.

What do I feel most strongly in my memories of that relationship? The great feelings that I had playing Earl Weaver in the middle of the night.

Right now, after not having much to play that I enjoyed in the last three months, I'm suddenly drowning in fun, interesting games: Rock Band 2, Hinterland, Head Coach, NHL 09, De Blob, King's Bounty, Mount & Blade. It might be the greatest group of games I've ever played at one time. And spending time playing these games--temporarily escaping the real world in the process--makes me much more able to function in the real world when I return.

That's why it will always be impossible for me to be completely objective when there is a discussion about gaming; I know what a positive influence it has been in my life. And I know that many of you feel exactly the same way.

Site Meter